The Chron reports on the story.
Officials with the Gulf Coast Rail District, Houston-Galveston Area Council, Texas Department of Transportation and Metropolitan Transit Authority are involved in a comprehensive planning study of rail, generally in the Washington Avenue and Interstate 10 area.
The study, building off numerous previous reports and research by the agencies, is intended to provide a template for how to develop rail between a site at or near Northwest Mall and the former downtown post office.
The study could be persuasive should local officials want to encourage the Federal Railroad Administration or Texas Central Partners, the sponsor of the Dallas-to-Houston rail project, to rethink extending high-speed rail service to downtown, said Maureen Crocker, the rail district’s executive director.
“Really, time is of the essence at this point,” Crocker told rail district officials about changing the high-speed rail plans.
A 2012 study commissioned by the rail district found that commuter rail along the U.S. 290 corridor would carry an estimated 5,960 riders in 2035 without a direct connection to the central business district. With access to the urban core, ridership increased to 22,580 per day. The study did not examine the effect of the connection on intercity trains.
Though they were absent from earlier discussions, Metro officials now are engaging in the process. Metro is by far the region’s largest public transit agency and the only operator of passenger rail in Houston, apart from national Amtrak service.
“For such a study to be successful, Metro has to be a full working partner,” said Metro board member Jim Robinson, the transit agency’s appointee to the rail district.
The various agencies, including Metro, also have different priorities. Even among those interested in a rail link, the demand and types of traveler vary. Metro must consider the needs of all transit users, not just those hopping off high-speed rail, board member Christof Spieler said.
See here for the background. The involvement of Metro is good to hear, as they’re the only outfit that would be capable of operating such a train line, were it to come into existence, and because if you’re going to do something like this you may as well make it as useful as possible. Like, make it have useful stops along the way at places where people would want to go and where connections to bus lines exist. Remember, the two endpoints of this hypothetical train line are themselves hubs – downtown is obviously a locus for lots of other transit options, but so is/will be the Northwest location, which has a park and ride lot now, will have an Uptown BRT station in a couple of years, and may also serve as a stop for a commuter rail line, all in addition to the high speed rail line. You can see why there might be a lot of interest in this. There’s a lot of potential benefit at stake here, so let’s get it right.